GOP Race Heads West, Heats Up

The most recent Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas saw sparks fly, but the same old rhetoric fell as flat as ever.

The GOP debate in Las Vegas last night lived up to its billing as the “Western Republican Presidential Debate,” with proceedings taking a more personal and unruly form reminiscent of the Wild West. Frontrunners Mitt Romney and Rick Perry typified this motif in the debate’s most cringe-inducing moment as they engaged in an almost comical exchange that amounted to Romney crying to Anderson Cooper because Perry was trolling him. Herman Cain, widely viewed as having recently joined the front of the pack, was the victim of some early criticism surrounding his 9-9-9 tax plan, but fell out of the limelight soon after. On the whole, then, things could have been worse for Cain on a night when Newt Gingrich shined, Perry regained ground, and “hard to watch” was the operative word.

Aside from the Romney-Perry catfight, which was a bad reflection on American politics for reasons to obvious to state, one other such moment stood out. At one point, Rick Santorum, his fade into oblivion not quite over yet, said to Romney regarding his stance on healthcare reform, “You just don’t have credibility, Mitt, when it comes to repealing ‘Obamacare.’” He added, “Your plan was the basis for ‘Obamacare,’” going on to say that Romney’s “track record” contains nothing that should convince voters he is likely to repeal healthcare reform.

The most alarming aspect of this remark is the fact that it pays no attention to the pertinent policy issues surrounding healthcare reform, but instead seems to focus on the fact that putting Obama in front of a word instantly makes it taboo. Indeed, Santorum seems to bring up this issue merely to imply that Romney is not far enough removed from the current president to have the credibility to become president himself. That’s it, and that’s the problem. Santorum is guilty of perpetuating the one overarching reality that has dominated the GOP race so far and made it so shallow and fruitless, that the least “Obama” candidate is the right one for America.

Surely it would be better for Republicans to dig a little deeper than that in assessing their candidates. Having said that, it is perhaps unfair to blame Santorum for being shallow in his criticism or blame Romney for taking the easy way out and disowning his admirable history with healthcare reform instead of defending it. After all, we live in a nation that just might actually elect someone president because they are as “un-Obama” as possible.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/19/us/politics/republican-presidential-candidates-debate-in-las-vegas.html?_r=1&ref=politics

Posted by Ajay Batra

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